"I hate you," the man said into the speaker. "I don't believe for a second this isn't your fault."
The voice on the other end of the line laughed. "We drew straws, James. There's no way I could've cheated at drawing straws."
James crossed his legs and leaned against the Taxi window. "Considering the loser was told they'd be sent to a wacky town in the middle of nowhere that claims to be overrun by ghosts, yeah, you definitely cheated."
"What, not excited to meet Casper? Remember, he's a friendly ghost."
James' face was bright red as he adjusted his suit, smoothing out the wrinkles. "Eight years of college and this is the highlight of my career. You have got to be fucking with me."
"Good luck, kiddo! Don't worry, all the newbies get hazed like this. When I first joined, I got sent to a place out West that claimed sacrificing virgins was the only way to stop the apocalypse. You're lucky Amity Park's only delusional, not batshit insane."
His coworker was quick to hang up the phone, probably called off to complete some important job, unlike him. James had only just been hired by a network, straight out of college and everything, before he was suddenly called in about their programs being fresh out of new ideas.
"People don't watch reality TV these days," his boss had explained. "It's too staged. What we really need are some real weirdos. I mean, have you seen the news lately? It's like I'm reading straight from an Onion article."
After showing them lengthy charts on their company's lack of views and high ratings, the twenty men and woman in the office room were told they would be assigned particular regions of the world to investigate for a new film idea.
"There are some crazy people out there with a story that needs to be told, you just need to find them," their boss claimed before he left them alone to decide where to go.
When Amity Park came up as an option, no one wanted to take it so they were forced to draw straws. Guess who the lucky loser was.
James chanced a look out the window as he noticed the approaching buildings. Although he'd said he was thrilled to be granted a job straight out of college, visiting the "Most Haunted City in America" was not the best way to start off his career.
Everyone knew about Amity Park, it was kind of hard not to with their social media posts and obviously doctored pictures of ghosts. I mean, a Box Ghost, seriously? They could have been a bit more creative than that. At first it had been kind of funny, like a meme that everyone shares but doesn't believe, until the new mayor, a billionaire named Vlad Masters, actually started asking for federal money to "repair the damage inflicted by the town's unwanted supernatural guests." The broadcast news industry had the story of the century after that claim.
It was almost as if these people actually believed their town was overrun by ghosts. Hilarious.
The taxi driver cleared his throat. "Can't believe you actually want to visit this place," he said, looking in the review mirror at his less than amused passenger. "You got a death wish or something?"
"Funny," James muttered. He gathered his things as the car passed under the city sign claiming Amity Park was a 'Great Place to Live!'
For some reason the taxi driver found his reply amusing. The car pulled over two blocks in and the total money owed popped up. As James went to pay the man, he was handed a card in return.
"What's this for?" he asked, observing the name and number on the back.
"Tourists like you bail pretty quick," the driver laughed gruffly, turning around as he took the money. "Call me when you want to be picked up. I'll be here for the next three hours when you change your mind."
James was rightfully angered. He quickly shoved the card in his pocket, mumbling about the taxi drivers being in on the dumb joke. He had one suitcase with him and it wasn't long before he was walking down the street and searching for a hotel. He noticed the driver was still parked, smiling through the window like he knew something James didn't.
He scowled at the man over his shoulder. Already his visit to the town of crazies was driving him to the brink of his patience. If he could find a nice hotel then he could settle in, take a shower, relax, and start his search in the morning. It was eight at night and his was exhausted; the flight from California to Illinois had not been a fun experience.
There were few people out this late, and because he wasn't near the inner city yet he assumed it wouldn't be crowded. There was a group of kids chasing each other so he figured it couldn't hurt to ask for directions.
"Hey, do any of you know where the nearest hotel is?" James asked as politely as he could, bending down until he was their height.
Apparently, the kids hadn't been told about stranger danger because they held no fear as they turned to face the newcomer. "A hotel…?" one of the boys said, eyebrows raised. He couldn't have been more than nine years old. "Is that a joke?"
"No, I really do need to find a place to stay for the night," James explained, feeling uncomfortable when the kids started grinning at each other.
"Oh," the girl said, snickering behind her hand. "You're from out of town." The others dissolved into fits of giggles as they shared some sort of private joke.
"We only have one, Specter Inn down that way and right next to the park," another boy said, pointing and smiling.
James sighed. It would probably be a long walk. He stood up to leave and thanked the kids before heading in that direction.
"Careful," the first boy cried after him, friends laughing loudly. "The ghosts are more active at night."
The businessman hunched forward to hide his frown and prevent himself from doing something childish like sticking his tongue out at the little brats. It seemed even the youngest of Amity Park's citizens made it their mission to pretend like the supernatural existed. It was all one big joke to this town.
He made it to Specter Inn by eight thirty and stared up in exasperation. There was a glowing sign with a smirking ghost over the hotel logo.
The lady at the front desk acted as though she had never seen a customer before. He quickly realized after noticing the sign-in sheet in front of him that his assessment was actually true. This place didn't seem to have a steady flow of visitors.
"We get a couple people from out of town here and there," the women said when she noticed James looking at the list of previous tenants. "Paranormal fanatics, conspiracy theorists, YouTube stars, and some brave souls just looking to prove themselves."
She smiled. "They never last long."
James quickly snatched his room key from her and shuffled to the elevator with a very stiff back. The woman was leaning against the counter with one hand on her face and waving to him with the other. He let out a deep breath when the doors closed. Finally alone, James leaned tiredly against the elevator wall. He looked at the ceiling and begged for the answer to 'what the heck is wrong with this town?'
James had come to expect to see his wife or three-year-old daughter when he woke up every morning. What he had not come to expect was a stranger looming over him – particularly an old lady in a nightgown. James screamed, jumping backwards and raising a finger at the crazy woman who snuck into his hotel room, only to be shocked when he realized no one was there.
He turned on the lamp and looked around the room before giving up and collapsing. "Great, it's been a couple hours and I'm already hallucinating from stress," James groaned, rubbing his eyes. At least the bed had been comfortable.
The businessman slipped out of his sleep clothes to pull on his typical attire: a suit and tie. Nothing said prepared for the day like a freshly cleaned suit, and he had ironed his last night before going to sleep.
It was only ten in the morning, a Saturday if he remembered correctly, so James had a lot of time to scourer the city and observe the locals. As much as he hoped not to interact with them, if he wanted to do his job correctly then he'd need to find some weird family that fit perfectly within his boss's requirements for a good, natural reality television show.
He used the stairs this time – the hotel was only two floors – and waved to the woman working the front desk. She appeared to be talking with someone. Figuring it was best not to butt into anybody else's business, he walked passed them.
"Good luck today, sonny," an older woman's voice called after him.
It didn't sound like the young lady at the desk so he looked over his shoulder curiously. There stood the old woman he'd found leaning over his bed this morning waving at him from behind the counter with the receptionist. Both were smiling.
James had never run so fast in his life.
It took him about two blocks to calm his racing heart. He stopped just outside of a restaurant called the Nasty Burger to catch his breath, leaning forward over his knees. Had he imagined it? If he'd dreamt the old woman, then why was she out front with the receptionist? Could the young lady even see her?
"T-this town," he panted, "is absolutely nuts." He was going to murder his coworkers when he got back, he didn't care if it was luck of the draw. Who sends a newbie to such a creepy place anyways?
From his bent-over position James saw two pairs of sneakers approach him. He quickly stood tall and adjusted his crooked tie.The blonde kid in front of him looked around. For some reason, he was watching the sky.
"Was there an attack?" the teen asked, looking back at James.
"Makes sense," the Asian boy said, shrugging. "We haven't had one near the Nasty Burger in a while."
"I'm sorry, a what?" James asked. Both were rather tall and well built for high schoolers and they didn't look like crazy locals who ranted about nonexistent beings.
Their expressions changed. It was too subtle for James to put a name to.
"You're from out of town," the blonde one said, smiling. James felt patronized.
"Why does everyone keep saying that?"
Both the teens shook their heads. "Oh nothing. I assume you're here because of the ghosts? You're gonna want to head to the Fenton's then," the dark haired one instructed. "Phantom and the Red Huntress are good hunters too, but you'd never be able to find them."
"Plus, since you're new here, why not start you off with the full Amity Park experience," the blonde said a little too cheerfully. His grin was a tad concerning if James was being honest. "The Fentons know all about ghosts."
"Right," James said dryly, hand rubbing the bridge of his nose. "The ghosts." Well if everyone in this town seemed dead set on pretending like the supernatural existed then who was he to tell them to stop. "Where can I find them?" he asked, referring to the so called 'Fentons.'
For some reason this question sent the teenagers into a fit of laughter. James was getting real tired of being laughed at today.
"Sorry, sorry," the blonde said, holding his stomach. "It's just, you don't hear that question around here often."
The dark haired one recovered faster and thankfully pointed down the opposite direction where James had stayed last night. "They're that way. Trust me, you can't miss it."
"Miss it? Miss what exactly?" James asked, but was ignored as the teenagers walked away to enter the restaurant, leaving the adult confused. Was he headed to a research building? A school? A house? Who were these Fentons and why did everyone here seem to know them?
James took a moment to collect himself, picking up his suitcase and running over the wrinkles in his suit. He watched the locals. There were tons of people just out walking and talking to each other. Families, kids, teenagers; people of every shape, size, gender, and age were acting carefree and joyful.
What disturbed James the most was that little kids as young as seven were out on their own with no adult supervision. Didn't these parents care? What if their kid was snatched off the street by some loon?
He sighed loudly, earning giggles from a passing group of teens. Cheeks flushed, James vowed revenge on his coworkers. He cleared his throat and marched down the sidewalk in the direction of "the Fentons."
Although his job was to find a group or family that would be perfect for a reality TV show, it couldn't hurt to meet these so-called "ghost experts" to see if this town really was going to take the joke that far. Honestly, they even included kids in this prank! Who does that?
James took one look at the giant neon flashing sign and prayed he was imagining it. (He hoped he was imagining all of this but he couldn't keep pretending he was safe at home). This giant brick building and neon sign with... something? on top could not seriously be someone's house.
He took a step back to get a better look of the giant contraption on the roof. It resembled a UFO, which was concerning on so many levels because not only would he be dealing with "ghost experts," but what looked like alien enthusiasts as well.
He sighed, but turned the camera hidden inside his suitcase on. He was looking for a family anyways so it couldn't hurt to check this one out first. James, against his better judgment and all self-preservation instincts, knocked.
"Jasmine! Be a dear and get the door, sweetie," came a woman's voice from deep within the house.
A second later and a redhead teenager stood in front of him. Before he could get a word in, the girl looked him up and down and said, "Take my advice and run while you still can."
James blinked. Not what he had been expecting.
When he didn't move from his spot, the girl sighed and stepped aside, holding the door open for him. Clutching his briefcase to his chest and rolling his suitcase behind him, James entered what appeared to be a normal, if not incredibly large house.
"Looks normal, right?" the girl, Jasmine, said after noticing his astonishment. "Just wait until you see it with the security system on."
"Security system?" James voiced, weakly, unsure if he wanted to know. Usually people had that outside of their house. Why did this family have one inside?
Jasmine walked to a closed door on the other side of the kitchen and shouted, "Dad, Mom! Some guy is here to talk about ghosts." She then turned to James and warned, "Prepare yourself," before taking a seat at the kitchen table and pulling out a book.
James absentmindedly noticed it was a psychology book entitled, "Surviving Adolescence."
Loud thumping came from behind the closed door before James was suddenly faced with the largest man he had ever seen in his life. Orange filled his vision when the man's giant arms wrapped around him.
"So you're here to talk about ghosts?" the booming voice of said giant tree trunk of a man claimed. "Well you've come to the right place."
"Jack, dear, let the poor man down before you break him," the beautiful woman in a blue jumpsuit said, smiling at them.
The huge man set him down with a whine. "That only happened one time," he complained, pouting at his wife.
"Yes, but I really don't think we need another lawsuit filed against us, hmm?" the woman laughed, kissing her husband on his cheek who immediately brightened.
The two of them shared a passionate kiss to which the teenager behind James groaned out, "Yuck, guys, there's a guest. And please, no weapons this time."
James suddenly noticed the giant fucking gun in the woman's arms. Apparently, he'd made a terrified expression because Mrs. Fenton laughed and waved her hand dismissively. "Oh don't worry! This doesn't work on humans."
The woman proceeded to cock the gun and grin. "Can't say the same for ghosts."
Mr. Fenton whistled. "Man that's hot."
James was about two seconds away from making a break for the door.
Before he could implement his plan, a sound originated from the second floor and a relatively small teenage boy came bouncing down the stairs. He paused at the bottom and raised an eyebrow at the smartly dressed man.
"Code A or B?" he asked, walking around Jasmine who appeared to be his sister.
"Code F," she snorted, not looking up from her book.
The teenage boy nodded, grabbing what appeared to be cereal and milk for his breakfast. He looked at James and said while pouring it, "You should have run when she told you to."
"Now, Danny," the woman said moving to face her teenage son, "I know your father and I can be eccentric sometimes, but this man is clearly eager to learn."
"I can show him the lab," Mr. Fenton cried, fists raised into the air. "And the Fenton Stockades!"
"Jack, we are not locking the nice man in a medieval torture chamber," Mrs. Fenton sighed, shaking her head. "Remember what happened last time?"
Jasmine turned to whisper to her brother, just loud enough for James to hear, "What happened last time?" The boy named Danny raised an eyebrow at her, continuing to munch on his cereal.
"No, I mean was it the time with the hospital or when Sam's mom was being annoying?" Jasmine clarified. "I can't remember."
Danny hummed. "I think it was when the turkey came to life, actually."
Jasmine frowned. "Oh right," she commented, returning to her book. "You'd think mom would learn that ectoplasm and food don't mix well."
"She's making hotdogs tonight," the brother said, hiding a grin behind his spoon. "And it's your turn to fight off dinner when it tries to kill us."
"Ah! Yes, but of course we can't forget to take the opinion of our guest into account," Mrs. Fenton suddenly exclaimed, turning to face James who had backed himself into a corner of their living room, clutching his briefcase to his chest. "What would you like to see first?"
Mr. Fenton wrapped an arm around his wife and smiled. "You obviously look like a man with a plan. What did you come to learn about?"
It took all of James's strength to find his voice. "Actually," he explained, slowly, "I came here searching for something, but I'm okay now."
The husband and wife turned to each other. "Oh, well, did you find what you were looking for?" Mrs. Fenton asked.
James looked from the smiling adults holding ghost weapons to their unimpressed kids sitting behind them eating breakfast as if this were the most normal occurrence in the world.
"Unfortunately," he replied, swallowing thickly. "I think I did."
A/N: I love stories that are from outside POVs of Amity Park. This town is the center of supernatural epidemics and is NEVER taken seriously, so what if a producer decided it was the perfect way to get publicity for his network. "Amity Park's citizens have been pretending like they were overrun by ghosts for years; their acting skills were certainty natural looking so why not make a profit from it?"
And the Fenton's are the PERFECT "reality TV family."